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Home Free

Full of (Even More) Cheer – 2016 (Columbia)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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While we spend so much of our lives on the search for something new throughout the year, when it comes to the holidays we seem to find ourselves gravitating back toward that which we know. These are the things that inspire nostalgia and warm memories, the taste of Grandma's apple pie or the sight of that god-awful Christmas ornament that's been handed down through the years. And let's not forget the music. There's no music like Christmas music to take you back, drawing you in with familiar, time-tested lyrics and warm harmonies and it's this vein that a cappella superstars Home Free tap into on their latest holiday effort.

For those who might be scratching their heads at this release, yes, it is something of a reprise of their 2014 record, "Full of Cheer." Yet, insny intereired by the addition of Adam Chance to the group and inspired by the songs, the group set about rerecording much of the album and adding in a few new songs, giving fans a real slice of the group as it now stands. The result is a 10-track setlist that stands strong.

A warm and heartfelt rendition of "O Holy Night" opens the release with the collective's vocal harmonies at full strength while "White Christmas" showcases their complexity, their voices invoking everything from clopping horse hooves to swelling harmonica notes. There's something of an R&B vibe that slips into "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and that's a good thing. These voices capable of so much, before "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" inserts a healthy dose of humor.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" is smooth and elegant, as is the faithful rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear," leaving listeners wishing that it was these guys caroling at their doorstep this holiday season. A playful original, "Full of Cheer," takes a humorous look at breaking up around the holidays and is bound to produce plenty of smiles before giving way to a rich cover of the traditional favorite, "Silent Night," complete with a fiddle solo from Taylor Davis.

Fans really looking for something new will enjoy the studio version of the Zac Brown Band hit, "Colder Weather," the most "country" this release gets. The vocals are spot on, and their ability to make you forget that instruments aren't in the mix is simply amazing. The same came be said for the other new inclusion, a resonant version of the sacred classic, "How Great Thou Art," that is pitch perfect and full of soul, just what one would hope from such a celebrated track.

On "Full of (Even More) Cheer," Home Free don't break any molds or recreate the wheel but what they do manage is to craft honest, stirring tracks that capture the spirit of the holidays.